May 8, 2021
We pulled out of Batopilas at 9 am to explore a new route to Urique. The route took us from about 800 ft elevation to around 7000 ft as the road took us steep and winding switchback, across a high mountain plateau, and down another steep mountains side to the Urique river valley. The distance we traveled was only 41 miles, but it took us 7-1/2 hours, with about 6 hours of driving time.
After crossing the Batopilas river, the road used switchbacks to climb the very steep mountain side. The road was not real rough, but we used low gear and 4×4 to get around many of the steep curves. Many of the curves were so tight, that I had to do a 3 or 4 point turn to get our long van around the corners. We only had one truck pass us the entire day. It was a old pickup truck with 11-12 locals in it. They were going fast and probably made the trip from Batopilas to Urique in 2-3 hours.
Once we climbed the steep mountainside, it was a long trip across the mountain plateau. The road was still steep and rough, but we were up in the wooded pines and the temperature was much nicer. There were many homes and ranchos spread across the mountain. These are usually small adobe brick dwellings with corrugated steel roofs. Some of them had solar panels. It looked like most of them had a water tank with a plastic pipe running from a creek or spring. It seems that 1/2” poly pipe has been a real blessing to these people. It is cheap and easy to run and it crisscrosses the roads and mountain side supplying water to their homes and animals. While descending to the Urique river, the mountain side is so steep that they suspend the water pipes above the road, using a few branches to hold it up. At one point we had to use the broom to hold the pipe up so the van could pass beneath. After we cleared the pipe, I noticed the family sitting outside the house, about 50 feet away, watching closely. They didn’t say a thing, but I was glad I saw the pipe before I damaged anything.
We stopped for lunch at a small school, tucked in the pine trees on top of the mountain. It was Saturday, so the school was closed, but it gave us a spot in the shade to eat. We were only parked for a few minutes, when three kids, ages 8-10, showed up. They lived just over the edge of the hill and their mama was the teacher of the school. They have 10 grades in the school, and currently only 10 students. We gave them some fruit snacks, and as a group were able to give them pencils, erasers, paper and Play-Doh. Eva made them promise to give the school supplies to their mama/teacher. The kids are very polite and many times they will ask for an extra snack or two for their younger siblings that are home. It was very obvious that this school needed all the help they can get.
As we were eating lunch, four more smaller children showed up. They were ages 4-8, and were a lot shyer than the other kids. As I walked towards the van, a 5 year old Tarahumara girl saw me and hid behind the van. I got a few fruit snacks, but I couldn’t find her. She was hiding behind a rock, but came out when I held up the snack. Eva sat by all four of the children and talked to them for a while. They all live on the mountain top, and seemed they were all cousins. After a while, a young lady came up the hill. She had walked to the teacher’s house to get homework for her daughter that had missed class. Most of the kids appeared to be Hispanic, but the two youngest looked Tarahumara. The young lady said they were her adopted brother and sister.
After lunch we continued across the mountain plateau until we came to the edge of the mountain, and the switchbacks that took us down to the Urique river valley. It was as steep as the climb up and I used 4×4 low to creep down the mountain side. As we descended, it was amazing to see the rugged places that the local people lived. We have heard that many of them do not own the land, but the government lets them live there for generations.
Once we arrived at the bottom, we crossed the river and continued 4 more miles up the river to Urique. Urique is the heart of Mexico’s Copper Canyon. The Urique canyon is the deepest canyon in north America and the town of Urique is at it’s deepest point. We found a nice riverside campground just past town. The owners were very glad to see us and only charged $150/night to camp. She will also cook us any meal we want, if we just give her time to get the food. After setting up camp, it was still hot, so many of us jumped into the river to cool down. The water was clear and not too cold. We sat in the river as the sun went down and enjoyed the evening.
May 9, 2021
Today was a rest day as we continued to camp along the Urique river. Eva and I walked 1/2 mile into town and explored the main street. It seemed that every building was someone’s house with a small store or restaurant on the bottom floor. Not everything was open, but some of them were.
It was a very hot day so we tried to stay in the shade, or we sat in the river to cool off. For dinner we had Teresa, the campground owner, make us dinner. They have an open-air eating area by the river. For dinner she made discado, which is meat, vegetables and sauce, cooked in a disc over an open fire. She also made tortillas on the wood burning stove. It was a nice place for dinner. Through out the day the temperature in the van was over 100 degrees, but it cooled down to 85 degrees by the time we went to bed. At night we opened all the windows and it cooled to 72 degrees by morning.